Tips for Employers
What first comes to mind when you hear the word “accommodation”? Do you think of a hotel room or something related to travel? How about the automatic adjustment of the eye when viewing objects at varying distances? Under Title I of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employer with 15 or more employees is required to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities who are employees or applicants for employment. In this case, accommodation can be defined three ways:
- Modifications or adjustments to a job application process that enable a qualified applicant with a disability to be considered for the position such qualified applicant desires; or
- Modifications or adjustments to the work environment, or to the manner or circumstances under which the position held or desired is customarily performed, that enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of that position; or
- Modifications or adjustments that enable a covered entity’s employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by its other similarly situated employees without disabilities.
How much will reasonable accommodations cost? According to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a service from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, two-thirds of accommodations cost less than $500, with many costing nothing at all. Moreover, tax incentives are available to help employers cover the costs of accommodations, as well as modifications required to make their businesses accessible to persons with disabilities.
Not all accommodations will be the same and accommodations must be made on a case-by-case basis. In addition, accommodations are not required when costs would constitute an undue hardship for an employer. An undue hardship is an action requiring significant difficulty or expense for the business/employer and the impact of the accommodation upon the operation of the facility. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offers free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. Here is a summary of JAN’s Top Five Practical Tips for Maintaining and Providing Effective Job Accommodations:
1. Develop Written Policies and Procedure – Written policies and procedures can help make sure that all employees are aware of the policies and procedures, help insure consistency when processing accommodation requests, and help document employers’ efforts to provide effective accommodations. Here is a link for a sample process.
2. Train All Managers and Supervisors How to Recognize and Respond to an Accommodation Request – To ensure compliance with the ADA, all of your managers and supervisors must be familiar the policies and procedures you have implemented. Sometimes just ensuring staff know who to talk to can avoid unnecessary complications later on.
3. Have a Process for Determining Effective Accommodations – Employees who have requested an accommodation are the best resource to help you determine what is needed to perform their job duties. The employee may be aware of effective alternative solutions. The employee’s medical provider and outside resources such as JAN may also suggest accommodations.
4. Monitor and Update Accommodations – Some accommodations may need to be monitored or periodically updated. Keep the lines of communication open with employees and document your efforts at accommodation.
5. Train New Employees – New managers and supervisors need to be trained on the policies and procedures for job accommodations before a problem occurs. While changes may be made, if an accommodation for an employee is affected, a new accommodation may be necessary. Don’t forget to train new staff, too.
Want more information on the ADA and Accommodations? Connect with JAN 800-526-7234 (voice) or by visiting www.askjan.org.
Claudia Magallan is the Disability Navigator for Workforce Solutions Workforce Solutions- Gulf Coast ensuring that customers with disabilities utilize all the services offered by Workforce Solutions. She has over 5 years of experience building relationships in the Houston Community and working with job seekers with barriers to employment.